"RUNNING can be a meditation, jogging, dancing, swimming – any thing can be a meditation. My definition of meditation is: Whenever your body, mind, soul are functioning together in rhythm it is meditation, because it will bring the fourth in. And if you are alert that you are doing it as a meditation – not to take part in the Olympics, but doing it as a meditation - then it is tremendously beautiful."
Imagine you wake up, open your wardrobe and hanging there, are a large variety of bodily styled outfits. You can choose which body suit you`d like to wear - big/ small, colored /white, rigid/flexible, strong/fragile, tall/short, toned/juicy… What image do you want to present to the world, today? In our modern culture there is a trend – an image of a perfect body that is judged to be what you “should” have. If you don`t – then the fitness and fashion industry markets what will work for you to get it. A perfect body, that looks good where you`re right on top of any fitness trend image going in the market.
When I was teaching stretching in a prestigious fitness studio in Munich. There were many pretty models in my classes…I like pretty faces and bodies. What I didn`t feel so comfortable about – was there wasn`t anybody at home in the body. So, one day I had an idea to help them feel their bodies. At the end of the class I invited them, “Now, let`s complete todays class by polishing our nipples, like this” I demonstrated and smiled sweetly. It was switching the lights on inside each body… Eyes bulging at first then they also enjoyed the play of polishing their nipples and…they enjoyed sensing their bodies for a moment. The fitness studio manager grabbed me after the class. I was actually not so concerned about what she thought – and was surprised at her enthusiastic response. She said that she appreciated the spontaneous way I brought awareness to people`s bodies and to actually see the models respond thrilled her. The manager was training fitness and aerobic instructors through out Germany and was asking me to tour with her.
Even though I liked being invited, this was not where I wanted to put my energy. As I was teaching in fitness studios I had observed identification on “image” ambition and little interest in fun and meditation. I was interested in teaching “ the witness part “… the meditation in movement.
I had already led and organized “Fitness for the Witness” trainings in Australia incorporating meditation with movement. Aikido, Yoga, Kinesiology (muscle testing), Dance, Running, Aerobic, Workout and Stretch classes aimed at bringing consciousness into the body. I later introduced “Fitness for the Witness” in Poona (a meditation center) in classes, groups and trainings, designed to explore and integrate “fitting” into your body in a comfortable and friendly way. You can integrate the tools, practice and create your own program, unique to your own bodies connection with bodily intelligence and wisdom.
I enjoy giving individual “Fitness for the Witness” sessions as a spiritual ‘Body Detective’ to support finding what each persons body. I taught and coached - running, swimming, zennis, dancing and stretching/strengthening with the orientation on anchoring in the “watcher”. Tennis became “Zennis” with the addition of consciousness = a Zen approach. Watching professional tennis players experience their game while “watching” themselves was delightful to watch.
My own experience of FITNESS FOR THE WITNESS had begun when I was an Australian sprinting champion. It was a joy to round the 200 meters track curve, leaving the ground, becoming weightless, airborne and then landing across the finishing line in a body, after a “no – body” had just ran the race. Fitness was fun, I loved to train, practice and workout. Running meant training with the men – I was faster than the women. Sprinting was about having a very fit well tuned body, being alert, present and at the same time it came easy, felt natural, light, totally alive, free and powerful. The competition however, was stressful and at some point I`d had enough. The carrot dangled in front of the donkey called “Olympics” was not enough to keep the sprinting shoes and starting blocks hot. I went solo and turned to Jogging – Ahhhhh…the meditation changed to breath and feet mixed with diaphragm – all springing along the earth.
Again – a “no-body” flying along any nearby dirt track in the early morning. This became my meditation. Breathing into the whole body and its 100 trillion cells; Awakening to parts of the body that revealed themselves through the movement. I had discovered body scanning in action…sensing the body from within. It was as if an ocean had come to the desert, light filled what had seemed darkness inside of the body and the inner body picture began unfolding and revealing a mysterious and wonderful design...
Jogging was just as uplifting and grounding (earth and sky meet) as the sprinting and competition had been. It continued as a meditation…”the runner disappeared and only the running remained”. The running also moved awareness to sensing and inner orientation…watching the body from within while moving on the outside. Breathing was about noticing lungs, rib cage, diaphragm, shoulder blades, organs and bones, blood carrying nourishing oxygen and connecting the whole body. Feet had souls, were weighted, lifted from above; Alive bones and ligaments tuned in awakening through the movement. As I ran, I watched the body align itself…the legs, hips, shoulders and spine balanced the skull on top and the senses were relaying information…I was watching eye balls “ seeing “ the environment, the ears “ hearing “ sounds as the body connected harmoniously with the outer space. The meditation was watching myself.
I found that changing the rhythm of the breathing opened previously unconscious places in the body and to where energy would then flow. I practiced dropping the breath from the chest to the belly and accessed a life force…Chi. I discovered Dantien (as the Chinese call it) or Hara (as the Japanese call it) and found that by using this life source ( universal energy ) to support the movement it created more ease, power and flow.
My movement as meditation, took me into exploring Eastern oriented practices such as Yoga, Tai-Chi, Feldenkreis and Aikido. This I combined with a Western approach to Fitness integrated while training as a Primary School Physical Education teacher and Fitness Instructor.
When we did the “pinch test”, weighed ourselves and were told this is part of being “fit” I wondered what did it mean? Did we have to “fit” into “fitness” image or squeeze into a size of clothes `fitting` someone else’s idea of what a body should look like? I actually see `fitness` as `fitting` into your own skin, inhabiting and `fitting` in your own body – by discovering its natural intelligence and best done by taking care of it.
The body is movement … it`s about moving, that`s its language. So why not find out what “fits” its needs? Moving provides sensory awareness or being in and experiencing your own body. Trough movement we perceive where we are in this moment. The first nerve to mylenate (grow) in the body was the movement nerve. It’s our 6th sense…
Discovering what exercises it likes rather than doing to it what you are told is good for your body. Find out what suits it. It knows what it needs and how it needs to move. The body has its own language and through movement we can understand this non-cognitive communication.
After a bus accident in 1994, sensing and listening to it supported the body’s recovery. I was able to create a new healing fitness program, which was ‘fitting’ to what the body was asking for its healing and recovery. The doctors said they believed survival from my injuries was due to me having been very fit before the accident. A completely incapacitated, broken boned body did not stop my daily fitness program. Theoretically, fitness is defined as a combination of threes …Stamina, Strengthening and Stretching…In my new Healing Fitness program I began to discover “Less Action and more Non-Action” (Wu-Wei as they call it in the East). The fourth discovery was Sensitivity… Respect and a willingness to let go and listen rather conquer it.
The witness becomes empowered - “Bringing awareness into the body empowers it”.
At first, it was only very soft stretching as everything had tubes, weights and pins attached and actually there wasn`t much that could move. Stretching was about creating space, ease and comfort in any places possible and relishing even a bit of a second of no pain. Stretching brought clarity and consciousness into the body. This awareness empowered the body and its health resilience’s. I didn`t do the healing – the consciousness created from the moving and sensing was helping the body do what it naturally knew – to take care of and heal itself. The stretching helped fluids to flow, lymph, connective tissue remained lubricated, elastic and blood transported nutrients, oxygen and chi throughout the whole body. As the body gained mobility, I added some strengthening exercises, which developed tone and supported giving me a clearer sense of my body, its boundary and definition. When my 2 broken legs began to heal enough to begin to move, I added the stamina program.
I still had to lie flat on my back because of the broken spine so I bicycled in the air and did movements with my arms and legs that would get the heart rate up over 70% for 20 minutes. That way I moved into an aerobic level and into another energy level.
I did look like a turtle upside down flapping its legs in the air. I was comfortable looking like a turtle.
I could support the body’s health resilience thru the movement. Gathering Chi into the blood via oxygen internally strengthened the life source resilience. Consciousness brought into the body vitalized health potency “Every little cell in my body is happy”.
My fitness program has changed, now. After recovery from the bus accident, my doctor decided a broken back and running didn`t agree. I tried to convince him otherwise as running had been a movement resource for me for a long part of my life; and to let go meant a large part of my habitual ways was to go and I didn’t know what the new was. However my back actually agreed when attempted to run that he was right. It wasn’t comfortable. So I took the offer and changed this part of the program to a new regular daily practice. Combining and alternating different movements such as walking (with my heart rate up), dancing and stretching now supports “Wu – Wei“ fitness: Less action and more meditation – Enjoying the one who is “watching“ the action, sensing and somatic movement.
Fitness for the Witness is simply about bringing consciousness into the body supporting you to “fit“ into your own skin at an optimum comfort and efficiency. That way the body’s health potential is available for taking care of itself. What body suit (referring to the morning choice of the body in the wardrobe) you want to wear is about getting to know your own body and what suits it. Not about “when my body is in a better shape then I will be happier”. This is an attitude of not being OK in this moment and possible a program such as having to do it better. Your attitude and thoughts about your body affects it. There is a chemical response, Neuropeptides relay messages to the cells and they respond to the program you send them. So, treat it well as a friend, a temple, tending it with love, care and responding to its daily needs.
You can create a fitness program that accommodates to its potential. By maintaining a body as a Rolls Royce rather than a bicycle, it will operate that way and you will be riding in a well-tuned instrument. A fit body can take care of itself, function well and run smoothly.
You can get to know it through its direct language – moving with awareness and being comfortably at home inside your own skin. Bringing consciousness into the body in a light and easy way empowers it. 100 trillion cells dance and celebrate life potency…awakening…bringing peace and joy.
“The Church says: The body is Sin.
Science says: The Body is a Machine.
Advertising says: The Body is Business.
The Body says: I am a Fiesta”